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Become a Qualified ISA Appraiser

Personal property appraising is a growing profession. As Canada prepares for the largest transfer of wealth in history, third party expertise in high-value personal property is in demand from estate lawyers, insurance companies, cultural institutions and government agencies.

A personal property appraiser is a professional who develops and reports an opinion of value on items such as fine and decorative art, collectables, gems and jewelry, and machinery and equipment. Personal property appraisers provide many services including: estate tax appraisals, estate liquidations, and appraisals for insurance purposes, loan underwriting, expert witness testimony, and auction services, among others. Knowledgeable clients such as financial planners and wealth managers are seeking qualified appraisers who maintain high ethical standards and who have been trained to produce high-caliber reports. These clients generally offer larger appraisal projects and often become long-standing clients. Although personal property appraisal is currently an unregulated industry, in July 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States issued a new rule regarding the valuations of charitable contributions that specifically cites the requirement that qualified appraisal reports conform to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). This signifies the added attention to qualifications in personal property valuation by government agencies and an increasing appreciation of the need for qualified appraisers. All ISA appraisers are qualified under these standards and, in fact, ISA, as a member of The Appraisal Foundation, assists in setting these standards. USPAP rules and standards are also recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board. ISA’s Core Course in Appraisal Studies is widely regarded as the most comprehensive in the industry, distinguishing ISA as the leader in methodology, theory, principles, practices and ethics. ISA offers extensive professional development in specific areas of product knowledge and connoisseurship, both through coursework and continuing education. Being a qualified appraiser also means being a current member of a recognized personal property association like the ISA.


Because being a qualified ISA appraiser requires industry experience, higher education and specialized knowledge, many ISA appraisers have transitioned their careers into full-time appraising or added valuation as an extended service to their existing business offerings. Many ISA appraisers are experienced in auction services and auctioneering, estate sales, insurance, collections management and they work as consultants in many areas including art and furniture conservation, restoration and repair.

Why join the ISA?

Picture of Edward ‘Ed’ Phillips

“With an academic background in history and art history, I was the manager of a corporate art collection of artwork by contemporary Canadian and indigenous artists,” shares Ed Phillips, an ISA Accredited Appraiser joining in 2012. “As that part of my career subsided, I realized that I wanted to continue to develop my knowledge and utilize critical skills I had developed. Appraisal seemed a logical next step and the prospect of being able to take courses with ISA in fine and decorative arts, Chinese ceramics, and modern design appealed to me. Deciding to become a qualified ISA appraiser became an easy decision!” Some ISA appraisers use their ISA appraisal training and membership to augment their current careers in related areas such a museum curating and in government agencies.

Picture of Chantal Wilson-Mahaffey

“As both a full-time museum professional and a part-time independent collections management professional, it was important for me to become a qualified appraiser in order to understand the context of the fine art market and the valuations that went along with it,” states Chantal Wilson-Mahaffey, an ISA Appraiser joining in 2015. “By formalizing my appraisal experience, I have become aware of the requirements around personal property valuations and have gained further knowledge around assessing appraisal reports and estimated valuations, and advising on market trends.” 

Other ISA appraisers have launched second careers utilizing early post-secondary education and vast business experience to create successful small businesses in personal property valuation. They were museum curators, estate planners, gallery owners and specialized dealers or cultural programmers and producers. “I looked for a transitional second career that I would truly enjoy and allow me to make a decent living for as long as I wanted, and most importantly, one where I could continue to build new knowledge,” states Kelly Juhasz, an ISA Accredited Appraiser joining in 2015. “I wanted something whereby I could tap into my existing formal education in art history and archival science, continue running my own business and use my previously acquired skills achieved working for universities, law firms and large cultural institutions. I found ISA and haven’t looked back.”

Benefits of Becoming a Qualified ISA Appraiser

As a qualified ISA appraiser, you will receive:

  • respected industry credentials that are sought out by lawyers, trust officers and other service professionals;
  • access to a strong, interdisciplinary network of experienced appraisal professionals across North America for confident referrals and advice;
  • an opportunity to run your own business with a support network offered through ISA’s continuing educational programmes;
  • rewarding day-to-day activities and client interaction that allows you to pursue your interests in specialty areas and meet like-minded people;
  • recognition for your knowledge in specialty property groups that will maintain its worth year to year; and
  • marketing initiatives and support to help get your name in front of prospective clients.

The International Society of Appraisers (ISA) is North America’s largest and most respected personal property association with over 800 members in Canada and the United States. Established in 1979, ISA members have developed specialties in many fields and in all areas of personal property including fine and decorative art, archives, rare books, coins, antiques, wine, cars, jewellery, watches, sports memorabilia, estates and more. Members conduct valuation services for insurance companies, wealth advisors, individual collectors, estate lawyers and museums and other not-for profit organizations across Canada. With a long history in developing the personal property appraisal practice, ISA appraisers are the most highly trained and rigorously tested independent appraisers in Canada. The Canadian Chapter of the ISA, started in 2000, is a not-for-profit, member-driven association formed to support member needs and to enhance public trust by producing qualified and ethical appraisers who are recognized authorities in personal property appraising. The Canadian Chapter of the ISA, a closely-knit network of colleagues, is represented on the Chapter’s website, which provides a listing of these qualified appraisers and other valuable resources for those seeking personal property appraisals.

How to become a qualified ISA appraiser in Canada

ISA offers online and in-person courses available throughout the year with technology that allows for easily accessible webinars, and live-streaming and video conferencing. The courses are designed to meet appraisers’ needs whether they are trying to complete course work at their own pace while working full time or whether they would prefer to finish their course work in a few weeks through onsite classes. With either option, ISA appraisers or those wishing to become ISA appraisers receive a top-notch education that fits a busy life. Qualified personal property appraisers must meet a number of requirements including having a post-secondary education from a recognized college or university and between 1 to 2.5 years of full-time and specific experience in market-related activities dealing with personal property. The ISA provides for the development of qualified appraisers in stages and offers four levels of membership including opportunities from students who are just starting out to existing experts in speciality fields. For a complete listing of requirements and training opportunities, visit the International Society of Appraisers head office based in Chicago as all training and membership criteria for Canadian members is managed from the Chicago office.

To review educational opportunities offered by ISA, click here.

Click here to visit the ISA to find out more about credentialing, membership levels and requirements.

To review The Personal Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria Summary from The Appraisal Foundation, click here.

Join ISA today, click here to apply for membership.


ISA members are distinguished for their professionalism, knowledge and expertise. As a member of ISA, you will join the country’s most respected independent appraisers, consultants, estate liquidators, auctioneers, gallery owners and dealers.

Become an ISA qualified appraiser today and launch a fulfilling business in valuation and related services in specialized personal property.